The Marian Consort
England's Marian Consort, taking its name from the Virgin Mary and not to be confused with Chicago's Marion Consort, has brought a fresh, accessible approach to repertoire of a varied and often fairly obscure nature, most of it from the Renaissance era. The group was founded by Scotland-born Rory McCleery, a freelance conductor and singer with such groups as the Sixteen, the Monteverdi Choir, and the Tallis Scholars. McCleery is also a musicologist who has specialized in the works of French Renaissance composer Jean Mouton and has brought to the ensemble a variety of little-known, but worthwhile, Renaissance repertory. The Marian Consort consists of six singers, normally performing one voice per part, a texture it claims to allow "clarity of texture and subtlety and flexibility of interpretation that illuminate the music for performer and audience alike." The group has performed frequently throughout the U.K. and around continental Europe and has also been heard regularly on the BBC 3 radio network. Its repertoire is drawn from the 15th through the 17th centuries, with only occasional excursions into contemporary music. After signing with the Delphian label they issued Music from the Dow Partbooks: An Emerald in a Work of Gold in 2012. It has continued to record for Delphian, amassing a catalog of eight albums by 2018. Its most recent release at that time was The Queen of Heaven, a collection of contemporary Marian motets by Gabriel Jackson, Herbert Howells, Roxanna Panufnik, and others. Largely performing music that was unfamiliar even to audiences strongly interested in Renaissance music -- an example would be 2015's Loquebantur: Music from the Baldwin Partbooks -- the Marian Consort has nevertheless gained wide popularity. A 2014 album, Christmas with the Shepherds, featuring music by Mouton and Cristobal de Morales, was named a Christmas Choice by the BBC. The Marian Consort, under McCleery's influence, has emphasized workshops and other educational events aimed at instilling a love of singing and vocal music in general audiences. ~ James Manheim
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